April 01, 2009

Ward Churchill Week 4 Update--Judge Tosses One Of Two Claims, **Update: Jury Receives Case

"Are you going to allow lies to overcome the truth?"--David Lane, Churchill's attorney

"What we heard here during the course of this trial is there are two worlds - the world the University exists in and the world Ward Churchill lives in . . . Ward Churchill's world was a place where there are no standards and no accountability"--Patrick O'Rourke, CU attorney

**Update 2: Jury receives case:
A jury began its deliberations in Ward Churchill's civil trial against the University of Colorado on Wednesday after hearing the closing arguments from both sides.

"The job you are now undertaking is quite possibly the most important decision you will ever have to make," Churchill's attorney David Lane told the Denver jury during closing arguments. "You are in charge of preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States of America."

Lane added: "Are you going to allow lies to overcome the truth?"
. . .
CU's attorney countered during his round of closing arguments.

"What we heard here during the course of this trial is there are two worlds - the world the University exists in and the world Ward Churchill lives in," attorney Patrick O'Rourke said. "Ward Churchill's world was a place where there are no standards and no accountability."
Exit questions--how quick a decision, and in whose favor?

Scroll for updates--as always, check out the implacable Drunkablog, who managed to cover the majority of the trial from inside the courtroom, and PirateBallerina for additional coverage . . .

**Late breaking update: No chilling of free speech--judge tosses one of Churchill's claims!:
Chief Denver District Judge Larry Naves threw out one of Ward Churchill's two claims this afternoon, ruling that the former professor's assertion that the University of Colorado launched an investigation into his scholarship in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights was not "actionable."

The judge and lawyers met out of the presence of the jury Tuesday afternoon to go over the final language on the jury verdict form.

"This case will go to the jury on the other claim where there is clearly an adverse employment action, which is being terminated," the judge said.

The second claim in Churchill's civil lawsuit against the school is the primary claim -- that CU fired Churchill for exercising his free speech rights.

The first claim in his suit, which was dismissed this afternoon, was that CU launched an investigation into the former professor in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights, essentially chilling those rights.

Naves said an investigation, in and of itself, is not an adverse employment action.

Churchill didn't lose his job or his pay while the investigation was ongoing, the judge said, and the possibility that an investigation could chill free expression by others who fear that making a controversial statement will result in a whole sale investigation of their scholarship is not sufficient to bring a retaliation claim.

Naves cited several other cases where judges had made similar rulings.

The jury will receive instructions Wednesday morning. Closing arguments will follow.

"Where do you guys get off looking at every word he has ever written when the only thing he wrote that upset you was the 9/11 essay?"--Churchill's attorney David Lane

Excellent cartoon from Face the State.

The latest updates on the Churchillpalooza trial--including extensive previous coverage:

Churchill receives the support of terrorist-sympathizer Lynne Stewart.

March 31--Defense concludes:
Ludwig took the stand for a short period Tuesday afternoon, testifying that he felt Ward Churchill was a valuable presence on campus because he served to combat the "cultural amnesia" that the larger society has about the treatment of American Indians.

He said it was "not easy" to fire the professor but that his academic transgressions were serious enough to merit it.

"We can't have one of our faculty members fall below that standard that we have," he told the jury.
March 30--Regents admit Churchill essay sparked probe:
Three former and current University of Colorado regents testified today that they authorized a review of then-Boulder professor Ward Churchill's speeches and writings only to find out whether they were protected under the First Amendment.

Former regent Patricia Hayes and regent Peter Steinhauer, both Republicans, said they found Churchill's comments in an essay about the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "anti-American." But they said they also were concerned about other instances where Churchill made speeches that they thought appeared to advocate violence and terrorism.

They testified that they wanted to know whether the speeches and essays were considered protected speech under the First Amendment if Churchill had made them as a public employee representing the university.
"Given a fair chance":
Carlisle was the lone regent to vote against firing Churchill in 2007.

She said her decision to stray from her colleagues was based on the fact that the majority of faculty members serving on CU's Privilege & Tenure Committee voted to suspend the professor.

"They're the ones with the scholarship, they were the ones who should be making the decision about what sanctions should happen to Professor Churchill," she testified.

But Carlisle said she had the utmost confidence that Churchill was treated fairly and that the academic misconduct charges against him were fully proven.

"I believe Ward Churchill was given a fair chance to state his case," she told the jury.
March 27--"We did not sacrifice Ward Churchill":
"We did not sacrifice Ward Churchill," said Don Morley, a professor of communications at CU-Colorado Springs and a member of the university's Privilege and Tenure Committee.

Morley testified that he was hoping the fraud charges against Churchill that were being forwarded to his panel from the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct would turn out to be false.

"Why?" CU attorney Patrick O'Rourke asked.

"You just don't want to see one of your own fall and he's one of our own," Morley replied.

He said the Privilege and Tenure Committee was not a rubber stamp for the previous university panels that reviewed Churchill's work for academic misconduct.

His committee gave serious consideration to each allegation of fraud, Morley told the jury, and even absolved Churchill on several when the alleged wrongdoing didn't rise to the committee's higher standard of "clear and convincing" evidence for misconduct.

But what the committee did find in terms of misconduct, Morley said, merited terminating the controversial former ethnic studies professor.
March 26--Free speech doesn't negate academic fraud:
CU Regent Michael Carrigan told the jury that the nationwide furor over an incendiary essay penned by Churchill about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was a wholly different matter from allegations that the professor had fabricated, falsified and plagiarized parts of his academic work.

And just because the misconduct investigation grew out of the firestorm over the essay — which CU later determined to be protected free speech — didn’t mean the university could disregard the information it was getting about Churchill’s scholarship, Carrigan testified.

“Essentially, if we ignored these allegations, the message would be that you can plagiarize, you can ghostwrite, you can do it, but just make sure you say something offensive so you can say you should never be investigated and your work should never be scrutinized,” he said.
March 25--Churchill's attorney rests case

March 24--Churchill calls critics "pathetic":
Ward Churchill, fired by the University of Colorado two years ago for allegedly engaging in academic misconduct, called some of his critics "pathetic" during a second day of testimony at his wrongful termination trial Tuesday.

The frank description came after Churchill's attorney, David Lane, asked his client for his reaction to previous testimony from a colleague at CU who, according to Lane, characterized Churchill's three decades of scholarship as "not worth a pitcher of warm spit."

"How did it make you feel?" Lane asked.

"Angry," Churchill replied. "But anger is no new feeling for me."
Boo hoo. Critics also labelled "shit-knitters"--that's a new one.

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